Farm: Finca La Soledad
Varietal: Bourbon (60%) & Caturrua (40%)
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried
Owner: Lucia Zelaya & Rony Asensio
Town / City: Antigua
Finca La Soledad, Antigua - Guatemala
La Soledad sits at an altitude of 1,585 to 1,700 metres above sea level on the slopes of Volcan de Agua, just outside of Antigua, Guatemala. The farm was originally part of the larger Finca Santa Clara, founded in 1908 by Sr. Luis Pedro Aguirre Matheu, great-grandfather of La Soledad’s current owner, Lucia Zelaya. Santa Clara was passed down through the generations until the late 1990s, when the farm was finally divided between the four children of Ricardo Zelaya Aguirre. At this time, Lucia Zelaya took over the 15 hectare tract of the farm called ‘La Soledad’.
Lucia is the fourth generation to farm coffee in the privileged Antigua region, and her brother, Ricardo Zelaya, works right down the road, at the current Finca Santa Clara. Today, La Soledad is managed by both Lucia and her husband Rony Asensio. The two marry the passion that Lucia’s ancestors brought to coffee farming with new innovations to produce some of the best ‘Genuine Antigua’ coffee that the region has to offer. In fact, the farm has placed in the Guatemala Cup of Excellence twice in the last decade.
The farm is managed by two full-time staff, including the farm manager, Rigoberto. However, Lucia visits the farm at least once a week, as does Rony. They always come on different days and compare their perspectives to exchange information and share ideas. Rony, who comes from coffee, as well, is a very talented, passionate and meticulous farmer who works incredibly hard to produce great coffee. He owns and manages several farms and takes great pride in doing things exceptionally well.
About the farm, Lucia has commented: My father, Ricardo Zelaya Aguirre, a young working man who learned about coffee from his ancestors, worked hard on the Santa Clara farm, which La Soledad was, at the time, part of.
After my father's death, my brother, Ricardo Zelaya Andrade, continued to work in Santa Clara, always keeping the traditional ways of cultivating, processing and providing the same quality of coffee. [Recently] each of my brothers and I decided to separate our land and started to work independently on our own farms, which gave me the wonderful opportunity to work La Soledad on my own, with the help of my husband, Rony Asensio. We love it.
When Rony describes his approach to farming, he explains, "Everything we do is done with love." This love is apparent on the farm. The attention to detail, agricultural knowledge, and high production standards are very inspiring and hard to fault. La Soledad is exceptionally well-organised, and all of the facilities are impeccably clean. Lucia and Rony's relationship with their workers is also beautiful to see; their management style is very inclusive, and the loyalty of the team is evident.
As they stretch up the mountainside, La Soledad’s Caturra and Bourbon coffee trees grow under a canopy of Grevillea shade trees which are pruned every year to ensure the trees get the correct amount of sunshine and protection to maximise yields and quality. The region benefits from rich volcanic soil and a special microclimate that an exceptional characteristic to the coffee.
During the harvest Rony and Lucia employ up to 25 pickers. Due to the varying altitudes on the farm, the cherries ripen at very different times, so to ensure that only the very ripest cherries are selected, the pickers do around 8 passes throughout the harvest. After the harvest, the coffee is processed either at the Zelaya's beneficio (mill) Bella Vista or at the Santa Clara mill, using the traditional washed method. The cherries are mechanically pulped before they're fermented for 24 hours to remove the mucilage, and are then dried on patios in the sun.